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Two Years Later, Mt. Pleasant School Sports Facilities Bond Goes to Voters

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The main field at Westlake High School will be resurfaced with artificial turf, get lights and have its track resurfaced should a $9.77 million bond be approved on Mar. 29. Martin Wilbur photo

It’s been two long years for Mount Pleasant School District residents and those connected to the district who have waited for improvements to the athletic fields at the high school and middle school campuses.

Two years ago next week, a $9 million proposition to install artificial turf at the main field and a host of other improvements on the six-field complex was canceled during the earliest days of the pandemic-induced shutdown.

Next Tuesday, two days before the second anniversary of that canceled vote, district residents get their chance to support a nearly identical bond. Like in 2020, the project also calls for reconfiguration of two smaller fields, Field B, known as The Patch, and Field C, to regulation dimensions and to perform desperately needed drainage work at all of the fields. Resurfacing of the running track and installation of LED lights for the main field, a press box and new bleachers at various locations throughout the grounds are among the other main features that would be financed by the bond.

The community would also see improvements to the three softball and baseball fields plus a sidewalk for spectators to safely reach those fields.

The only significant change is the price tag. In 2020, the district sought to borrow up to $9,085,366 while next week it will be asking for $9,777,745.

In justifying the need for the improvements, Superintendent of Schools Dr. Peter Giarrizzo said having modern, safe and well-functioning surfaces for the district’s modified, junior varsity and varsity athletic teams is important, but nearly all secondary-level students, whether they play on a team or not, will benefit.

“Probably the most important part of it is that each of these fields should be thought of as classroom space,” Giarrizzo said. “So all throughout the year, all of these fields are used by the physical education program. So you figure that’s 950 kids who use these fields whenever the weather is permitting. When they get flooded or chewed up or whatever, we actually lose classroom space because they shouldn’t be on it.”

The improvements would also likely save time and money. The district’s teams have often been unable to practice or compete on their home fields because grass surfaces can take several days to dry after a storm, said Board of Education President Michael Horan. Plenty of down time is needed for grass fields to recover, which in the past has forced the district to look to Pleasantville and other nearby districts for help.

“We’re constantly searching for alternative venues when we can’t use our fields, not because it rains but because it’s a safety issue and we’re not able to,” Horan said.

Plus, there are a variety of youth sports and community organizations that use the fields as well, he said.

Giarrizzo said on one occasion a player had suffered a leg injury and an ambulance got stuck in the mud.

With the installation of lights at the main field, which is used for football and girls’ and boys’ soccer and lacrosse, it will extend the hours teams can practice, Giarrizzo noted. All of those sports can also be played on any of the regulation fields.

Of the 72 districts in Section 1 athletics, Mount Pleasant is just one of seven not to have a turf field, he said.

Should the proposition be approved by voters, the district’s plan would be to use the current fields through the fall season, then start work on the main competition field in late fall, he said. As the seasons end at the other fields, work will be undertaken on those surfaces to provide for uninterrupted home play for the district’s teams.

In 2016, the district addressed its infrastructure needs with passage of a $39.6 million bond. Work on those projects was finished last summer.

“All of the schools in the district are in a good place, the boilers, the roofs, the windows, all of that,” Giarizzo said. “There wasn’t anything glitzy or fashionable about that bond, but we had to get our house in order.”

In the coming weeks, district officials will begin work on the strategic plan to see what instructional and additional facility improvements may be needed in Mount Pleasant.

Despite the nearly $600,000 escalation caused by the two-year delay, one advantage for the district is that by the time it begins paying debt service on the borrowing in the 2023-24 school year, just over $1 million of current debt will have expired, creating no tax impact on residents. The project would account for an extra $18 a month for each of the first two years for the average homeowner, followed by about $10 a month for each of the next 15 years, Giarrizzo said.

Horan said he has heard mostly positive feedback from the community, although there are those residents who wonder whether improving athletic fields is a luxury in uncertain times.

“Some people will be looking at it as keeping up with the Joneses,” Horan said. “I respect everyone’s perspective and opinion. I look at it as, to me, it’s a safety issue. The costs are just going to go up, so we want to get it done sooner than later and we have talked about it for quite some time.”

The vote will be held at Westlake High School on Tuesday, Mar. 29 from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. For more information, visit

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